Breaking the Mirror


The frozen waters of winter are starting to flip here in Minnesota. Above is a nearby pond – the first open water of any kind.

Tomorrow we start a weekend sesshin and in our practice period we’re wrapping up our work with the following lines from the Genjokoan:

“To convey the self toward the 10,000 dharmas to do practice/verification is illusion. The 10,000 dharmas advancing and practicing/verifying through the self is satori.”

I’ve been working through bits and pieces of the Kyogo and Sen’ne commentaries, sneaking some of it in to recent posts. One big piece remaining is Kyogo’s “…the reality of the self is practice-verification.”

I’ll be encouraging the sesshin participants and the virtual practice group to tuck that saying into their (metaphorical) breast pockets, carrying it around for a while, seeing what happens when it thaws out, and reporting that here or in check-ins to me.

To aid you in your work, this story from Reb Anderson and Susan Moon’s book, Warm Smiles from Cold Mountains, comes to mind:

…When Kishizawa Ian, Suzuki Roshi’s second teacher, was a young monk, he was sitting in meditation on a rainy day and heard the sound of a distant waterfall. Then the wooden han was struck. He went to his teacher (maybe Oka Sotan) and asked, “What is the place where the sound of the rain, the waterfall, and the han meet?”
His teacher replied, “True eternity still flows.”
And then he asked, “What is this true eternity that still flows?”
“It is like a bright mirror, permanently smooth,” said his teacher.
“Is there anything beyond this?” asked the young monk.
“Yes,” responded his teacher.
“What is beyond this?” inquired the young monk.
And his teacher replied, “Break the mirror. Come, and I’ll meet you.”


Kishizaza Ian Roshi was a dharma brother of Sawaki Kodo and Hashimoto Eko. Together they trained with Oka Sotan, a very important Soto Zen teacher and Dogen scholar in the early 20th Century, and the three went on to revitalize Soto Zen. This is flavorless talk and is how people of the Zen way thaw – Rinzai, Soto, Minnesotan, Japanese, whatever.

For comments on this found koan and for comments on “…the reality of the self is practice-verification,” I invite you to find a capping verse, either from traditional Zen discourse or from other places (other than your internal dialogue) and offer it here. Could be a line from a song or a snippet of an overheard conversation. Our job as the reader of your offering is to put our body and heart into the saying to see what you see.

I offer this from Zen Sand, 6.105:
“Today for the first time I understand number and weight.”

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